Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Guilty mums and memes

There's an epidemic of guilt among mothers, and it's spreading. By sharing ideas we misguidedly think are inspiring, we're just making each other feel crap. Stop this right now, people. 

Where the sisterhood should be about support and compassion, all too often we're telling other mothers about our choices, in misguided attempts to help them do the right thing. But really, we're not helping them do the right thing, because they either had the same choice as us and deliberately chose a different route, or their life is different ours and they couldn't choose what we did. 

And the form this unhelpful advice so often takes? Memes. Soppy looking pictures with badly chosen fonts overlaid, employing questionable grammar to express patronising sentiment. Here's one that makes me want to vomit up my Pinot after a hard evening's mothering.

It's typical. On top of the usual responsibilities to feed, clothe, educate and keep our children safe, we're supposed to infuse their every moment with joy. Screw that.

Here's another delight for you. It made me so angry I almost missed the absent apostrophe in the first line. AND THAT'S PRETTY ANGRY. But that's typical, You can't even write a fucking sentence and you're trying to tell me how to bring up my child. I can't even write about this without including an expletive in every sentence. I'm sorry about that, I really am, but they make my blood boil. My child may have a leaky self-esteem bucket, but at least she will be able to take pride in her excellent grammar.

Rules from the other mothers

Here are the messages (paraphrased) that I've have come across, usually on Facebook via other mothers:
  • Co-sleeping makes children cleverer
  • Breastfeeding makes them stronger
  • Nursery makes them more immune to illness in later life
  • Nursery makes them grow up too fast
  • Things you’re supposed to tell your child to build their self esteem
  • Be there for your child when they’re small
  • Be a good role model – go out to work
  • Don’t rush your child – enjoy every moment with them
All of these things can be wonderful. But you can’t do everything. Some of them contradict each other. I get a better night’s sleep if I don’t share a bed with my daughter, and I’m definitely a better mum when I’m firing on all cylinders from a decent night’s sleep. My daughter wasn’t able to breastfeed. We tried, really hard. I was sad about it. I got over it. I wish the internet would.

The perfect way to bring up a child

Sometimes you have to hurry your toddler, because otherwise you'll be late for work and will lose your job and won't be able to pay the bills and buy food. Life isn't an unadulterated explosion of joy. They should probably learn that from an early age.

There’s one meme on the internet that I didn't scream at. It says the important thing is not how you feed you kids and where they sleep, but that you do feed them, and they have somewhere safe to sleep. I mean, I still hate it, because it's a fucking meme. I'm not going soft. See how they make me swear? Those things are evil. 

Because surely the point is to do our best. Even those of us that think we’re the best mums in the world will have days when we’re rubbish. And even those who think we’re the worst mums will have moments when we think, ‘yeah, I’m great at this.’ There is no perfect way to bring up a child, just many, many imperfect ways.

Most of the mums I know love their children to distraction, and would do anything for them. But won’t hesitate to admit that looking after them is hard work and half the time they just want to get through the day, put the kids to bed, check Facebook and have a glass of wine.

My advice: think before you share. Reach for the wine, not the mouse. 


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